JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS!
“Don’t worry about the tiny fish pecking at your legs,” chimes Eustace our guide. “Relax, enjoy the view and look at the camera.” Easy to say when you’ve got 750 million litres of white water gushing past you and beyond!
My afternoon begins with a boat ride to a tiny island in Zambia – Livingstone Island – the same place the locals took Dr David
Livingstone to, the first European to see the Falls back in 1855. He’s also the one who named them for Queen Victoria and who described their beauty by writing, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
I’m no angel, but as the temperatures soar well above 40°C, a dunk in the Devil’s Pool is firmly on my agenda. Livingstone Island is a 5-minute boat ride from the jetty at the Royal Livingstone Hotel and is located in the middle of the Zambezi River, touching the lip of the Victoria Falls where the water thunders down. The boat ride alone is a thrilling experience as our skilled skipper retraces Livingstone’s approach to the island to witness the very best view of the falls that there is!
Access to this unique Island is seasonal and depends entirely on the water levels in the Zambezi River. When the water levels are at their lowest (usually from end August through December), a rock barrier in the river forms a pool where people can swim. During these months, a minimal current in the pool means that no one should get swept over the edge of the falls as they would if they were to swim 15–20 feet to either side.
Our adventure begins with a Welcome and a captivating historical tour of the Island. After the requisite pose next to Livingstone’s plaque (we remember to capture the falls in the background) it’s time to face the fun. Like sheep, we follow Eustace our guide to the rocky river’s edge. Stripping down to our swim suites (ideally full-piece for the ladies) and wearing river shoes to prevent our feet from getting snagged on the jagged rocks below, we hand our camera equipment to a second guide – aka “the brave cameraman”. Entering the cool shallow waters, we head towards a set of rocks that constitute one side of the Devil’s Pool. The swim is about 3 minutes. As we’re swimming, we still can’t see the falls, even though they are only a hundred yards or so in front of us. The escarpment is so flat and the drop at the gorge so sudden that it looks as if we’re floating in the world’s most thrilling infinity pool. What we can see are plumes of spray rising from beyond the edge of the pool and we can hear the roar of the cascading water at the bottom of the gorge – a sight and sound that give the falls their original name … Mosi-oa-Tunya or “The Smoke that Thunders”.
I am constantly looking out for crocs, which are known to patrol the Zambezi in large numbers further upstream. I don’t see any, which confirms what I’ve been told – the reptiles are too concerned about going over the falls to get that close to the edge. On the one hand their absence is comforting; on the other, it is a troubling reminder that even their little reptilian brains are warning them to stay away!
A worrying thought keeps flashing through my mind: what if we get caught in a surprise current that sweeps us over the edge? But then I see the vista, framed by a brilliant rainbow, and think, “this is going to be the swim of a lifetime – one to remember forever.” We finally reach the rocks and walk to the spot where we are given a briefing. Then Eustace jumps into the water and swims to the wall that forms the top edge of the falls. Behind him is nothing but emptiness. The message is clear: Jump, but not too far. So I vault myself up into the air trying to take in as much as possible of this moment in time. I see the falls, the rainbow, the river and water below. I’m pretty sure this must be the ultimate way to see Victoria Falls, an even better vantage point than Livingstone’s angels had. As I swim over to the wall to meet my group, it dawns on me: Sitting in the Devil’s Pool is, as it were, a little slice of heaven on Earth. You might think heaven can wait. But if you’re a little bit crazy, and you find yourself in Livingstone Zambia in the dry season, add the Devil’s Pool to your agenda. It may just be the world’s most spectacular swimming hole.
Due to the unique nature of the island and being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, only 16 guests may visit at any one time and enjoy a choice of five daily visits, restricting this island to only 80 visitors per day. Towels are provided and everyone is required to sign an indemnity form before arriving on the island.
Livingstone Island tour rates and departure times:
07:15 depart 07:30 – USD 90 per person
08:45 depart 09:00 – USD 90 per person
10:15 depart 10:30 – USD 90 per person
12:15 depart 12:30 – USD150 per person (lunch included)
15:15 depart 15:30 – USD120 per person (high tea included)
Children under 5 pay 50%
Subject to 2015 increases
In order to avoid disappointment, let us pre-book this fantastic activity for you and your group.